Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/23/14
I counted seven key races being through out the country this weekend in the sport of Horse Racing but I isolated two that I wanted to take a closer look at. The 2013 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in New York, which features runaway Hopeful Stakes winner Strong Mandate, and the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland Racetrack in Kentucky, which features 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Actually, Keeneland and Belmont will or should be the focal point this weekend. Along with the Shadwell Turf Mile on Saturday, Keeneland will also be running the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, a $400,000 Grade:1 for two year old fillies going 1 1/16ths miles. The race will feature an eye popping 16 entrants and you can throw a blanket over them and pick one but I’m not touching it with a 10 foot pole as far as betting it. Also on the card is the First Lady Stakes, another Grade: 1, $400,000 test for three year olds and up fillies and mares on the turf going one mile. The race will be spearheaded by Hungry Island and Daisy Devine. Lastly at Keeneland, and on Sunday, is the Spinster Stakes which is yet another Grade: 1 race for $500,000 for three year olds and up fillies and mares going a mile and an eighth. I apologize but at this writing I am unclear of who is running but year in and year out, it’s a great race. Over at Belmont, and the race before the Champagne Stakes, is the female version of the Champagne Stakes in the Frizette Stakes for two year old fillies going a mile for $400,000.  Sweet Reason, blow out winner of the Spinaway at Saratoga in her last looks to be the horse to beat. You should also keep an eye on 11 ½ length maiden winner Artemis Agrotera and possibly Stopchargingmaria Other races that also bear close watching include the $500,000 Indiana Derby at Indiana Downs. The $500,000, 8 ½ furlong race shows (probable favorite) Power Broker as the horse to beat but look out for Uncaptured and Midnight Taboo in a field of 15 (with 3 on the AE list). Also, be sure and catch the Santa Anita Sprint Championship at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Grade: 1, $250,000, six furlong sprint for three years old and up should be a good battle between the speedsters Trinniberg and former Triple Crown hopeful Goldencents. Keeneland – Saturday, October 5, 2013 Race 9 – 5:21 PM Shadwell Turf Mile S. (Grade I) Purse $750,000 For Three Year Olds and Upward One Mile (Turf) P# PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1 Winning Prize 4/C L G K Gomez 126 N D Drysdale 6/1 2 2 Turallure 6/H L J R Leparoux 126 C LoPresti 20/1 3 3 Skyring 4/C L E Castro 126 J Fernandez 30/1 4 4 Hogy 4/G L J Rocco, Jr. 126 W M Catalano 30/1 5 5 Summer Front 4/C L J Bravo 126 C Clement 20/1 6 6 Willcox Inn 5/H L J Graham 126 M Stidham 15/1 7 7 Handsome Mike 4/C L M Gutierrez 126 D F O’Neill 20/1 8 8 Coalport 4/C L C Hill 126 W M Catalano 30/1 9 9 Silver Max 4/C L R Albarado 126 D L Romans 6/1 10 10 Wise Dan 6/G L J R Velazquez 126 C LoPresti 2/5   Analysis: 1) Wise Dan- really needs no introduction…the reigning and defending Horse of the Year is having another sensational year. Dating back to last year, he’s now won nine races in a row including six Grade: 1’s and shows no signs of slowing down, especially off his last race. I’ve seen just about every one of this chestnut gelding’s races but none impressed me more that last race (The Woodbine Mile) on Sept. 15. In the Woodbine Mile, he was taken back to third in the early going by regular rider John Velasquez, took command of the race at the quarter pole (after six furlongs in 1:08.2) and simply toyed with his foes winning by three easy lengths while Velasquez could have left his whip in the jockey’s room. He finished the distance in a mind boggling 1:31.2. “I think from what I see he’s every bit what he was last year,” trainer Charles LoPresti said. “The Woodbine race told me that. My jaw was dropped. I was just in awe. And Johnny told me after the race, ‘I couldn’t get him pulled up.’ He said ‘I thought he was kind of settled and quiet in the post parade so I kind of got him away from there running this time, but man, once he grabbed the bit, I was talking him out of that!’ He said ‘I’ll never do that again!’” “Believe me, I don’t know that I’ll ever have another horse like him” Lopresti added. “I’m realistic to know that. I know how lucky I am to have him, and all I want to do right now is take care of him. That’s all I care about doing, taking care of him, and I think we’re doing the best job we can”. I can’t say I’ll see another one like him anytime soon myself and frankly I have no idea how nine others are showing up to challenge him….I guess others are taking a crack at $750,000. I’ve looked at this race nine ways to Sunday and, other than severe traffic issues, I don’t see a way they can beat him. In fact, the way I see it this race sets up perfectly for him….the easy and logical choice.   2) Silver Max- this speedster is in career best form as he has won three of his last four by daylight and in wire to wire fashion including back to back Grade:3 events. He is as consistent as the day is long judging from his 21-10-5-1 career record. He should be on the early lead but must not get caught in an early speed duel with several other speedsters in here (namely the #1 horse). His best chance is to get out on an easy early lead and pray Wise Dan wakes up on the wrong side of the stall and doesn’t fire….but that, readers, looks unlikely.   3) Summer Front- is another who is in good form right now and also comes into this off back to back Grade: 3 wins except this colt by War Front used a strong late runs to win those. I was especially impressed with that last race (The Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park on Aug 25.). He was visually impressive while uncorking quite a late run from about the 3/8ths pole to the wire and passing five horses in the process in that distance…..looks best of the rest and I won’t be completely shocked if he’s hanging and banging with Wise Dan in deep stretch.       BelmontPark – Saturday, October 5, 2013 Race 10 – 5:46 PM     Champagne Stakes. (Grade I) Purse $500,000. For Two Year Olds One Mile P# PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1 Casiguapo 2/C   L Saez 122 M Morales 20/1 2 2 Ride On Curlin 2/C L A O Solis 122 W G Gowan 12/1 3 3 Havana 2/C L I Ortiz, Jr. 122 T A Pletcher 7/2 4 4 Debt Ceiling 2/C L J Alvarado 122 J J Robb 10/1 5 5 Honor Code 2/C L J Castellano 122 C R McGaughey 3/1 6 6 Long On Value 2/C L J Lezcano 122 W I Mott 12/1 7 7 Strong Mandate 2/C L J L Ortiz 122 D W Lukas 5/2 8 8 Grand Arrival 2/C L R Napravnik 122 N P Zito 8/1 9 9 Intense Holiday 2/C L C P DeCarlo 122 T A Pletche 12/1   Analysis: 1) Strong Mandate- when I watched his last race (a blowout, almost 10 length win in the muddy Hopeful Stakes Sept 2), two words ran thru my head when he hit the wire…Kentucky Derby. Yes, I know, it far too early to be thinking that but I can’t help myself. I mean this colt by Tiznow has improved drastically in just three career races. After finishing fifth, beaten some 12 lengths (That’s a typical D. Wayne Lukas move, he uses their first race as a learning experience more than anything else…trust me…I’ve been watching him do that for some 20+ years now), this good looking bay colt bounced back and blew away a maiden field by 4 ½ lengths. “He certainly moved forward off his maiden win when he ran in the Hopeful,” Lukas said. “You don’t see big horses like this accelerate like he did in the Hopeful, and so easily. He’s just been more focused and stronger; he’s going in the right direction. He’s had a great month since the Hopeful.” If he can transition the (muddy) Hopeful race onto a fast track….look out….Lukas is right, he’s a big colt with a big stride and should only get better with time. He’s my choice in this race but it may not be a walk in the park for him as this race will prove a class test for sure.   2) Honor Code- created quite a buzz on the backstretch the day after his first time out (maiden) win. In that race, run on Aug 31 over a muddy Saratoga surface, this colt by the great A.P Indy was last and 22 lengths off the pace at the half mile pole. As they reach the 3/8ths pole, John Velasquez dove to the inside and this colt absolutely exploded along the rail and, not only made up those 22 lengths but wound up winning the race by 4 ½ lengths drawing away. Moreover, he came home the last furlong in a sizzling :11.4…it was nothing short of an amazing race. Since Honor Code’s win also was in the slop he, like the top choice, must prove that he (they) are not just mud larks. “It’s a tall order going from a maiden to a grade I, but he’s been doing very well,” said trainer Shug McGaughey after watching this horse breezed a half-mile in:47.4 Sept. 29 at Belmont. “He’s training well, everything is good, and we’re excited about running him. We’ll see what happens.”   3) Havana- won his only start by 2 3/4 lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs in near track record time at Saratoga on Aug. 23. In that race, he scored a speed figure of 102 (unheard of for a first time two year old starter) while only being “shown the whip”….which, in turn, means he could have gone fast…..that’s scary. If this Todd Pletcher trained colt can stretch out, what appears to be, his tremendous speed, he should be right there at the end of this race.   Honorable Mentions: Casiguapo was second in the Hopeful to Strong Mandate after breaking his maiden at Calder Race Course by 11 lengths in just his second career start and I’ll tell you, his first career start was not exactly a flop. In his debut race, he came charging hard, late from tenth position early to grab the show spot and gallop out like a corvette afterwards….might run big vs. these too. Record: 17-46 = 37%   To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form   Little Bets N’ Pieces **** 2013 Wood Memorial and Haskell winner Verrazano will not start again until the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 2. The 3-year-old, trained by Todd Pletcher, will be coming off a dismal seventh-place finish in the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 24. “Verrazano got a beautiful trip,” Pletcher said about the Travers race. “He slipped behind and dropped way back, not his characteristic spot. Mike (jockey Mike Smith) thought he was much the best; the break killed him. It’s horse racing. We would have liked to have won it, but we’ve had a great meet and we’re not going to cry about it. We’ll regroup and try again.”   **** Fox Hill Farm owner Rick Porter said millionaire mare Joyful Victory will be retired after finishing third in the Sept. 28 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park. “I have decided that Joyful Victory has done all and more than (trainer) Larry Jones and I have asked of her during the last four years,” Porter said on the Fox Hill website. “I have been very proud to race Joyful Victory in the red and white silks of Fox Hill Farm but it is time for her to begin her career in the breeding shed. She will fit right in with any of the top broodmare bands worldwide. She is by the top sire Tapit and is his leading earner in 2013 and fifth leading lifetime earner. She ticks all the boxes to be a successful broodmare. I went to Santa Anita (Sept. 28) hoping to see her win her last career start but it was not to be. At least I was able to witness her final race. “Joyful Victory won or hit the board in 12 of her 16 starts in graded stakes. She raced at 10 different tracks. I sure will miss watching this gorgeous gray mare race at the top of the sport.” Joyful Victory, a beautiful gray mare, won seven of 20 starts, with nine placings and earnings of $1,252,679. She will be consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency to the Fasig-Tipton November select sale.   **** The top three finishers in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 at BelmontPark are headed for a rematch in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park; all three of their trainer said this past Monday. Trainer Bill Mott, who’s Ron The Greek won in a runaway, (almost 7 lengths) said “There wouldn’t have been many horses who would have beaten (Ron the Greek) on Saturday, He might have fired his best shot right there. I’m not (going to be) disappointed if he doesn’t fire that one back (in the Breeders Cup Classic)” Trainer Todd Pletcher said Palace Malice, who came second is being considered for the Classic as well, albeit a firm decision has not been made. . Mott added that Ron the Greek’s stable-mate, Flat Out, who won the 2011 and 2012 editions of the race, but finished 8 1/2 lengths behind Ron the Greek “It was good. Maybe not his ‘A’ race, but it was a very good race,” Mott said of Flat Out’s performance. “Steady. That’s the kind of race that you can go to the Breeders’ Cup with and maybe have a little bit more confidence that you haven’t overdone it.”     ****Whitney winner Cross Traffic will miss the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic with a minor shin injury suffered when the track broke out from underneath him at the start of the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup.   “It is very unfortunate for this to happen at this time of the year because this will prevent him from competing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” said Todd Quast, the General Manager of GoldMark Farm’s, which owns the horse. “We will bring him back to GoldMark (in Florida) to evaluate him and based on those findings make decisions regarding his future.”    
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